Tocchet gets probation for gambling activity

Tocchet gets probation for gambling activity

Tocchet gets probation for gambling activity
Associated Press

A former NHL player and assistant coach who ran an illegal sports gambling ring won't serve jail time despite international headlines linking the case to hockey's biggest star.

Rick Tocchet was ordered Friday to serve two years probation for his role in the gambling ring.

Tocchet, 43, could have received up to five years in state prison. However, there is a presumption against incarceration for first-time offenders who plead guilty to third- or fourth-degree crimes.

That means the retired Philadelphia Flyer is unlikely to serve any time for his crimes, said Mark Eliades, the deputy attorney general who prosecuted the case.

Under terms of Tocchet's plea deal, the state made no sentencing recommendation, leaving it to the discretion of the court.

Before being sentenced on Friday, Tocchet told the judge, "I'm sorry to the court, my family and friends I was involved in this."

An assistant coach with the Phoenix Coyotes under legendary Wayne Gretzky, Tocchet partnered with a New Jersey state trooper and another man in a sports betting venture they ran for five years. He was placed on indefinite leave from his job after he was charged.

James Harney, the trooper who has since been forced to give up his badge, was sentenced earlier this month to five years in prison. The other man, James Ulmer, will be sentenced on Aug. 24.

The case became one of the biggest stories in hockey in February 2006, when the men were charged, because authorities said several of the bettors were people connected to the game. The only name revealed was Janet Jones Gretzky, the wife of Gretzky. But authorities quickly said neither she nor other bettors would be charged.

The case remained international news throughout the 2006 winter Olympics in Turin, Italy, where Gretzky coached team Canada.

In the investigation that followed, authorities and hockey officials said there's no evidence of betting on hockey. However, the betting was heavy on other sports. In the 40 days that led up to the charges, the ring handled $1.7 million in bets, including college football bowl games and the Super Bowl.

The business was lucrative for Harney while it lasted. When he was arrested, police took 32 watches and nine televisions from his home, and he forfeited his home, his interest in his wife's home and cash.

Harney met Tocchet in the 1990s, when Tocchet was playing for the Philadelphia Flyers and Harney tended bar at a hotel frequented by athletes. After retiring in 2002, Tocchet became Gretzky's top assistant coach with the Coyotes.

His lawyer, Kevin Marino, declined to comment before sentencing.

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